MONTREAL -- Facing a doctor shortage and forced closures of its emergency room for 12 hours a day, physicians at Lachine Hospital say they are willing to pay bonuses "out of their own pockets" in an effort to recruit new respiratory therapists.

The $15,000 annual bonuses will go to the first three respiratory therapists who are hired at the only French-speaking hospital on the West Island of Montreal, according to a news release issued Friday morning.

An emergency room physician admits there has already been a decrease in the number of consultations during opening hours at the hospital since the partial closure of the ER starting Nov. 8.

The hospital's emergency room is closed from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., which means patients with urgent care issues will have to go to another hospital outside of those hours. 

“We know our local francophone population well, and their financial difficulties in travelling to the city or elsewhere to neighbouring hospitals. We know their health problems (respiratory disorders especially at this time of year). We are concerned that they will stay at home and not seek treatment even if they need it," Dr. Fahimy Saoud said in the release.

One of the main reasons for offering the monetary incentive is because some doctors have left to go downtown to work at other hospitals within the McGill University Health Centre network.

According to Dr. Paul Saba, president of the Council of Physicians, this is because they were offered lucrative bonuses from the Quebec government.

“The government has an obligation to provide the same salary incentives for health care workers who work at Lachine as for those who work downtown. This is unfair and has created the present crisis,” Saba said.

If new recruits are hired, the ER and the intensive care unit should be up and running “soon,” the release said.